Today was a long one… it could’ve been longer, but I was sooo, sooo lucky!
My son has a big day on Saturday and so being true to my ‘last minute’ nature, took him into town today to ‘suit him up’. I was dreading it. The thoughts of the crowds, the multiple choices, the price tags, I just could not get motivated. I didn’t leave too early, which I’ve now decided might just be because that in itself, is a restriction on how long I have to be out. If I left too early, then I would have the whole day ahead of me to find what is necessary, whereas by not leaving early means there’s not enough time to plod about wondering, choosing, sweating, tiring, complaining of sore feet. No time for hmmmming and haaawing, just get in, get it done and get out again. Subconsciously somewhere in my head, I felt assured that my brain had decided on getting it all done inside two hours. I wasn’t quite so optimistic.
Anyway, got my mojo going, took the lazy man’s way and parked on the doorstep of where I was going, knowing it in itself would cost me an arm and a leg. Lazy? No, just not motivated. I wasn’t anticipating this to be a good experience. Although pleasantly surprised by the lack of people about and neither shops nor streets crowded by any means, my stomach still lurched a little as we emerged from the car park and approached the store. Although many years standing and despite renovation, it hasn’t really changed all that much. I was reminded of all the times I had been taken there for my clothes, throughout my own childhood. Wares for special occasions mostly. It was more about the style than the price. The quality could be found in other places too, but the ‘style’ (or lack thereof), was in this store, along with only one or two others in town. Not trendy, not modern, not fresh or new or alive. Old fashioned and ultra sensible, at least that was my perception of it. Now somewhat more ‘with it’, housing many designer labels and more trendy designs, it wasn’t such an ordeal and for once my son wasn’t unhappy about ‘going shopping’. He’s like me, not a ‘shopper’, of clothes anyway. Books and Music and home decor maybe, but clothes – for anyone, no.
In we go, necks stretched like turkeys looking for signs of possibilities. We headed toward the department to the rear of the shop – the ‘trendier’ guy stuff, and began to browse. Straight away I noted the lack of multiple choices, and was both relieved and frustrated by it. He wasn’t long about deciding the kind of clothes he wanted and so we set about finding sizes and colours etc. The first thing was a shirt that we couldn’t find the right size and colour for and so after a while, I approached one of the sales girls there. Again, my stomach lurched. I was waiting to hear ‘If it’s not on the rail, we don’t have it, love’, or ‘No, it’s whatever is there’ and then have to think of other styles etc. The girl whose name I later learned was Ira, ever so kindly took the shirt and went off to give it to the girl from the other department to check for the other colour in that size and came back smiling and told me that they were checking for me. In the meantime I asked her about jackets and she whizzed around to help and advise as we shopped. She came in to see how we were doing as he tried on different things and gave her opinion and came back once or twice with a couple of alternatives, of her own accord. I was amazed. Only a couple of months ago, I was in that same shop with my father searching for an outfit for him, for a party he was attending and we had both remarked on how the staff were standing around their tills, chatting amongst themselves, whilst the shoppers wandered aimlessly about the place, waiting to be led. Yet here we were today, with one of the nicest sales assistants I have ever come across, genuinely helping the customer, all the while tidying rails and serving customers – and smiling!
As it happened, we couldn’t match the size and colours there in the end, but she told us of a couple of other stores that stocked similar styles and so we left some items by – just in case, thanked her for all her help and went to the other stores to continue our search. Being only a few shops away, no time was lost getting there and there was one guy tidying rails when we got there. Rather than waste time searching, I explained what we were looking for to the guy and asked if we’d any chance of finding it there. I showed him a picture I’d taken of my son in the other store, wearing the shirt he’d liked – and like a whirlwind he was gone – collecting different items, of similar styles – without asking size or anything. Next, he holds up each item, we have a fair idea straight away and within ten minutes my son is dressed exactly as he wanted to be and is smiling broadly – and so am I. OMG. He was utterly fantastic! He spoke to my son as much as to me, wasn’t at all pushy or bored to be there, nothing was too much effort, advising and smiling genuinely the whole time. Marvelous.
We still went back to the first store to let the girl know she could take our items off ‘hold’ and thanked her for all her help. We told her we’d managed to get exactly what he wanted and she was delighted. She asked if she could see and showed genuine interest in each thing as my son handed them to her from the bag. She said she was delighted that we’d managed to get sorted and wished us a great day for Saturday! I decided to still buy one of the things I had left there but had to pay for it at another counter, in the department the item was from. So not only had this girl been so completely helpful, she didn’t even work in the department we were shopping from! Again, marvelous. I made a point of passing on my commendations to those in the other department too, emphasizing that she made my shopping experience there a pleasant one. I would be quick enough to complain had she been what I was dreading… and half expecting.
One of the things I ran from when we moved abroad, was the insipid attitudes of sales staff and shop cashiers and assistants. Shopping for anything then frustrated the hell out of me! I remember often speaking to the side of people’s heads, whilst they continued listening to their colleague who continued to babble on in their own language. Often being looked at as if I had a cheek to be asking him/her (mostly female) anything. Those that were even able to speak to me in my own tongue, English, mostly showed no interest in the customer whatsoever. The same can be certainly said for the Irish much of the time too, but there’s something seriously wrong when you can’t find more than a single shop in your own town, with staff that speak any english. That’s how it was when we lived in Dublin, our nation’s capital. Yes I know, ridiculous isn’t it??!! The ability to speak English was not considered important – whatsoever and there was certainly no onus on future staff to be polite to, or compliant with, the customers. In Spain, as a customer, I found the natives to be ever so welcoming once you showed them you were making even an effort to speak their language, but you couldn’t work there on the ‘front-line’, as it were, if you couldn’t speak it fluently. End of. Some twenty years ago, living in Germany, it was the very same. No lingo – no bingo – and only right too!
But now today, despite having shopped – for two hours exactly by the way ;o) – I am not fit to kill, my feel are not bleeding, my son is happy and so am I. I’m all ready for Saturday and I’m dosed up on Feel Good Factor – ‘service with a smile’ !!
[Incidentally, the two shops involved are Shaws and Buckleys, both in Wexford town…]
Love & Light